Wine Country Escape

Lake Chelan: Vacation Plus

Here's how to spend a day tasting wine in Central Washington's vacation paradise.

By Sean P. Sullivan September 14, 2021

An afternoon in the sun at Fielding Hills Winery.

Image: Brooke Fitts

Most visitors come for Central Washington’s outdoor paradise, with its 50.5-mile-long glacier-carved lake serving as both backdrop and main event. The area also teems with wineries, but few of their offerings make it out of the area, since vacationers snap up bottles to uncork that night back at their lakeside rentals. Even if you’re here for recreational adventure, set aside a day to taste.

Start at Fielding Hills, on the lake’s southern shore. Mike and Karen Wade started making wine in East Wenatchee in 1999, then moved here in 2014. Fielding Hills offers the best of Chelan: superb wines and stunning views, whether you’re indoors or out. Most fruit is from its estate vineyard on the Wahluke Slope, and Wade has long made a name for himself with rich, fruit-filled styles.

Next, head downtown to Rocky Pond Winery, which sources its fruit from  estate vineyards in Rocky Reach, an area not far from Chelan and currently under consideration to become its own American Viticultural Area. The granite bedrock there contrasts with most of the rest of the Columbia Valley, resulting in distinctive wines. Rocky Pond has a spacious tasting room, though outdoor seating is limited. Consider some bites from the kitchen to keep you fueled for the next stop.

Image: Brooke Fitts

A 10-minute drive away, on Chelan’s northern shore, lies Cairdeas Winery, easily one of the top makers in the state. Winemaker Charlie Lybecker and his wife, Lacey, focus on Rhône-style wines, both from the Lake Chelan appellation and the broader Columbia Valley, but they excel equally at reds, whites, and sparklers. Their operation has a brand-new tasting room and a ton of outdoor seating overlooking the estate vineyard and Lake Chelan.

When evening falls, The Bistro at Lake Chelan offers classic dishes—charcuterie, Panzanella salad, poulet frites, crab cake benedicts at Sunday brunch—in a stately converted craftsman.

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